The Plenary is the highest decision making body of the Liberian Senate.
It can be recalled that the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, which is chaired by Margibi County Senator, Dr. Jim Tonola of Margibi, urged the Plenary of the Liberian Senate to summon Minister Cooper and hold her in contempt for what he termed as noncompliance attitudes towards the committee in the execution of its oversight function.
However, while answering to queries from members of that august body prior to their unanimous guilty votes, the Agriculture Minister pointed out that she does not in any way or manner intends to disrespect the Upper House of the Liberian Legislature only that she was misinformed by one of her Deputy Ministers in person of Mr. Rebobert Kerkula Fagans.
“Distinguished and Honorable Senators, I herewith respectfully inform you, I have not harbored any intent to disrespect you, nor the relevant Committee, nor this venerable Body. I refer to my letter of October 22, 2021, and humbly stand here today to state, confirm and affirm that the Ministry of Agriculture through myself, the Minister and its Deputy Ministers cannot and will not whether directly or indirectly, impede the duties and responsibilities or the legislative oversight of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries,” asserted the Agriculture Minister.
“It has never been the intention of the Ministry of Agriculture and its officials to deliberately, willfully and intentionally refuse to comply with requests from the relevant Committees to appear. Whenever duly cited, the Ministry of Agriculture represented by myself, when I am in the country or in my absence, the Acting Minister will appear along with relevant documents to answer queries. It was in this vein that I responded to the letter signed by the Secretary of the Liberian Senate, Honorable Nanborlor F. Saingbe, Sr., dated October 21, 2021, ordering myself and the Deputy Ministers to appear on Tuesday, October 26, 2021 at the hour of 11 am,” she furthered.
“In humble submission to this citation, we respectfully informed this Honorable Body in a letter dated, October 22, 2021, that I was not in the country at the time of either of the citations. Nevertheless, I worked with the Acting Ministers and project teams to ensure that the Senate citations were properly addressed.
I have done all within my power and personal abilities to reinforce and facilitate legislative oversight including by and through the provision of reports to the House of Representatives, to various committees in the Senate, including the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Briefings are being given as to the Senior Leadership of the House of Representatives, to cabinet colleagues, to the international community and to the world at large,” she told the Senators.
The Agriculture Minister proposed that that a dedicated liaison officers be appointed to ensure communication flows smoothly between the Ministry and the Legislative oversight committees, including, but not limited to, the establishment of dedicated virtual chat rooms with the Principals and their Aides.
“I ask that the respective Committee members appoint similar focal points in their offices to facilitate this information sharing,” she recommended.
Among other things, Minister Cooper urged that the Senate institute the practice of having standing invitations sent to the Agricultural Committees of the Senate and House of Representatives to public events planned and undertaken by the Ministry of Agriculture, including its projects.
Upon her presentation and subsequent answers to the Senators concerns, Lofa County Senator Steve Zargo requested for the Sargent-At-Arms of the Liberian Senate be commanded to bring Deputy Minister Fagan before the full plenary of the Liberian Senate.
Senator Zargo’s request was then seconded by Montserrado County Senator and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Executive to Saah Joseph, but the request was quashed by Protemp Albert Tugbe Chie, who termed it as totally “unnecessary.”
Meanwhile, with the guilty verdict, Plenary again voted for the Minister to reappear on tomorrow, Thursday, December 2, 2021 at 11:00am to be sentenced in accordance with Article 44 of the Constitution of Liberia, which is regarded as the organic law of the country.